Cow Corner

Injury highlights rise of Anderson

Cow Corner

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The day ended with high fives and back slaps as Cook and Trott splashed 240 runs around the SWALEC Stadium and brought England well within range of Sri Lanka on day three of the first Test.

Cowers could have filled the blog on these two without any problems - they are an irresistible pairing.

But that was the subject matter of most blogs during the Ashes. The two men are 'merely' picking up where they left off - admirable given the stated intention of England becoming the number one side in Test cricket.

England look set to bat long into tomorrow against a toothless attack who lack the menace of Muttiah Muralitharan - and it will most likely be an awful lot of fun to watch.

But when that's done, a fresh problem will present itself - the very problem Sri Lanka captain Tillakaratne Dilshan is experiencing without his biggest weapon.

The only cricket news of a washed-out morning session in Cardiff was that England's leading bowler James Anderson had suffered a side strain and had been ruled out of bowling for the remainder of the Test.

It was the 'leading bowler' tag that caught Cowers off guard, given how uncomfortably the tag has sat on his shoulders over the years.

Anderson has been playing Test cricket for the best part of a decade, but for the majority of those years he had been a man seemingly content to be the support act.

Less than three years ago he was still known in certain circles as 'Daisy' - because some days he does, and some days he doesn't.

And only when the cold reality of his absence from the bowling attack was revealed did it sink in quite how far Anderson has come.

Cowers watched Jimmy A make his Test debut as a 20-year old against Zimbabwe, bowling on instinct, blessed with intuitive control of swing, and pick up a five-fer right away.

His 'head facing the floor' action worried Cowers almost as much as it did Duncan Fletcher, so he was held back, recoached, moulded - and fell apart.

Anderson's England career stalled. 46 wickets from 16 Tests over five years of the Fletcher era at an average of 38.39 apiece tells its own story.

He was behind a brilliantly-gifted quartet of pacers, admittedly, all in their pomp, but when that attack began to break up through injuries and form the opportunities began to present themselves.

New coach Peter Moores made Anderson a regular selection, having him open the bowling with Ryan Sidebottom. 15 matches, with 62 wickets at 32.87 point to the improvements he made, but he was no leader. Andrew Flintoff remained the go-to man, Sidebottom an instant stalwart.

But mild-mannered Jimmy has changed under Andy Flower's stewardship.

The numbers are impressive - 107 wickets from 27 matches at an average of 26.7 - but even then they only tell half the story.

Anderson took just 12 wickets at 45.16 during the 2009 Ashes, and blew hot and cold the following series in South Africa as spinner Graeme Swann dominated.

The final transition to attack leader - and possible Test great - took place when he exploited all conditions across Australia, helpful and unhelpful alike, to play a part in his country winning their first Ashes success away from home in a generation.

Anderson stood up to the chirps and the sledges, let his bowling tell the talking. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint the exact moment that the transformation takes place. Sometimes it can be summed up in a 22-second clip (most of those YouTube views are by Cowers himself).

And Anderson was the one quick bowler who set the tone immediately upon his return to English conditions, harrying and bewitching the Sri Lankans, who poked and prodded like an Englishman against Murali on a dustbowl.

In this line-up he offers something unique - mastery of swing at good pace, a different beast from Stuart Broad or Chris Tremlett, who test batsmen with bounce. If Steven Finn is the man to fill his boots, the England attack will suddenly look one-dimensional.

Swann may yet fill the breach, but there has not been a great deal for the spinners in Cardiff, and he was sparingly used in the first innings.

It took him eight years from his promising start to reach these heights - and there were plenty of points when it looked as if we might never see this Jimmy.

But England fans should be mightily glad that he has eventually made it, and still at the relatively tender age of 28, because we'll miss the Lancastrian when he's gone.

Just like England will in the second innings.

+++++

TWEET OF THE DAY: "Nothing against Cardiff but wicket's dead and nobody's interested, Ashes Test was dull apart from last half hour!" And to think Andrew Flintoff was playing in said Ashes Test...

STAT OF THE DAY #1: 82.92 - Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott picked up where they left off in the Ashes (bat for a long time, score a lot of runs, do so in tandem). Their average partnership is the best of any English pair since the turn of the century - and in fact the second best in Test cricket behind Gary Kirsten and Graeme Smith of South Africa (minimum 1000 runs scored).

STAT OF THE DAY #2: 48.69 - Alastair Cook ends the day with an average higher than Kevin Pietersen (48.42), whose biggest task of the day was to watch the cricket unfold with his pads on.

STAT OF THE DAY #3: 66.34 - Of batsmen with 1000 runs to their name, only Donald Bradman has a better average than Jonathan Trott. Time to retire and live off that statistic?

SHOT OF THE DAY: Any of Trott's many cover drives could have taken the prize - but only one of them brought up his century - so that's Cowers' winner.

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